I am a young software engineer from US/California who has a high-paying job (for my age and location). Because I participate (and win/get top places) at various programming/data-mining competitions, I frequently get letters from the recruiters which follow the below-mentioned pattern.

Hi, I am from ThisCompany. I have noticed your good performance in one of the competitions that we sponsored and I would like to bring you to the on-site interview with our team. We have interesting tasks and provide great compensation and bonuses. Tell me what do you think.

The problem is that everyone claims having "interesting tasks" even if in fact the tasks are boring and annoying. So I would really like to know what do they mean by a great compensation and bonuses.

I read the following questions: one and two, but I do not believe that they are similar to mine, because the first one is about a fresh graduate and the second one about positions at a current work.

The reason to ask for ranges of the compensation/bonuses is simple:

  • they already have an ability to estimate my knowledge (they see my current employee, and my performance in a competition and all past performance in other competitions)
  • I do not want to waste my time for an interview with a company, if it is not ready to pay me the amount of money I expect. (I never disclose my current/past salary and a couple of times I was in a situation where after the interview process I received an offer which is below the salary I was getting a year ago).

I assume this can be helpful for a company for a similar reason: what is the point of wasting time on an interview.

So how I politely ask for an approximate salary range and the bonuses from a recruiter?

  • This may vary depending on your location, industry and profile, but I would be very wary of any recruiter that jumps straight to an on-site interview without doing at least a short phone screen first.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 9:41

3 Answers 3


So how I politely ask for an approximate salary range and the bonuses from a recruiter?

Just ask.

Something like this should work: "Sounds interesting. I'd like to move forward. But before we waste each other's time, please tell me the salary range being offered so that I can see if it would fit my needs."

Polite enough, and to the point.

  • 2
    short and to the point, direct communication of your needs, this is the best way I think
    – Kilisi
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 0:09
  • Good point. I would think recruiters know they need to be more upfront about the salary range when a candidate is currently employed.
    – user8365
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 12:50
  • 3
    I'd only drop the before we waste each other's time because it might convey that your time will most likely be wasted. Might be seen as a bit arrogant as well. I'd use something along the lines of to make sure we're on the same page or even a simple before we proceed. The last bit mentioning if the salary fit my needs is really polite, appropriate and shows that you are a valued professional in the market. Commented Mar 2, 2018 at 12:08
  • I'd drop the word needs though. You should negotiate from a position of strength. You don't need the money. You don't need this job. So if they want you, they'll have to make you an offer you can't refuse. I'd use "so that I can see if it's something I'd potentially be interested in" or words to that effect.
    – Kaz
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 3:52
  • First call from the company. The HR person wants to know my salary range because if it doesn't match the hiring manager's budget, it's not worth proceeding. He tried to get an estimate from me thrice by persistently asking about my previous salary or my current consulting rate as a freelancer. I didn't divulge, but asked what the hiring manager's approximate starting budget is. He didn't divulge it. Even Glassdoor or similar sites don't have salaries for this company. Do I just tell the HR guy the minimum I'm willing to work with, and say that I'd expect more based on how the interview goes?
    – Julian
    Commented Aug 19, 2022 at 16:03

Politeness and firmness can coexist. Indeed they reinforce one another. Create a short list of firm, simple questions and statements, with an assertive intro:

"In order to respect both your time and mine, allow me to share with you my criteria for considering a position."

Then list your salary range you would consider, etc. Don't reveal data your employer would consider confidential.

Beware also the "interview" designed to solicit competitive intelligence. Don't let yourself be used.

Some recruiter are paid on quotas and face pressure to misrepresent an opening in order to trick you into taking the interview. Guard yourself and your time.

Most recruiter are awesome people and can be excellent career resources. Treat them all professionally.

But put your own needs ahead of theirs. If a given recruiter pushed back inappropriately, he's in the wrong.

  • Thanks for your answer. Is there any reason I should write my own requirements? Why can not I just ask for an approximate compensation?
    – random
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 20:02
  • I think having your own requirements shows that you know where you are going in your career. For example, if you will not relocate, you should say that upfront. That saves everybody time. Regarding salary, there is no reason for you to say anything other than "market salary as shown on" some standard website like salary.com.
    – Thomas Cox
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 20:06
  • Here is a "problem": I already earn significantly more than a claimed average for a software engineer in my region (based on glassdoor), so I am afraid that a 'market salary' will lead them astray.
    – random
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 20:36
  • Why is that a problem? Just tell them you're above market. Do you really want to be bothered with opportunities to make less? If so, why?
    – Thomas Cox
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 21:07
  • 1
    @random - You already have a job, so just ask for more information about the position before committing to an interview. If they don't get the hint and give a salary range to encourage you to apply, their offer will be low or they just don't know what they're doing.
    – user8365
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 12:53

I agree with others; just ask. I have never talked to a recruiter who could not give a number. (Or if I did... I didn't talk to him more than once.) And then if the range is too low, just politely tell the recruiter what it will take for you to consider the position. As you alluded to... you really cannot be sure if you'll like the work, or the new location. But the money you can evaluate easily enough.

If there is a mismatch in salary expectations, I think the odds go up that there will be a mismatch between your abilities and the job duties.

But do remember that you can move to a low-cost area and take a job for less and still come out ahead financially (and perhaps live in a nicer/larger home at the same time).

Another facet: early in your career, development and career advancement are perhaps more important than modest differences in pay. I'd recommend that you spend most of your effort on figuring out if the potential position is a good choice for your career.

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